Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Families Rule with Family Rules!
Everyone knows that different environments have different rules. When you are in school, you are taught early on what rules you are to follow. When you have a job, your training includes what is expected of you. When you play sports or games, there are always carefully defined rules. And in learning to drive, you must understand the rules of the road. But often times, in our homes, where we spend the majority of our time together as a family, we forget the importance of having rules that are clearly understood and recognized by all family members. Every strong organization needs rules and so to have a strong family you need rules, too!
It helps to think about your family as a business or team. What are your long term and short term goals? What structure have you put in to place (either formally or informally) to accomplish these goals? What is your mission as parents, and what do you hope to achieve when it comes to the raising of your children?
In the groups of parents that I have worked with, we often devote time to creating a family mission statement and then the creation of family rules. This exercise can help all members of the family to understand one another and also come together as a cohesive unit. The first step in creating family rules is to have parents sit down and discuss what rules they can agree on to enforce and honor within their household. It does no good to have rules, only to allow them to be broken with no consequences. This makes the entire process null and void. The rules should be simple and easily understood. Some suggestions might be "Only Kind Words Spoken" (no swearing) or "Only Hugs" (no Hitting or Kicking) etc. Parents must also be able to honor the rules because the "Do as I say but not as I do" method WILL NOT WORK!
Once the rules are agreed upon, it is time to have a family meeting where the rules are unveiled and discussed. In addition to introducing rules, the meeting should be a time where the family can discuss the consequences for breaking the rules. Parents need not be too specific as to what the consequences might be because different age children require different consequences. But younger children benefit from a clear understanding that the consequence will result when the rule is broken. PARENTS MUST BE CONSISTENT IN CONNECTING THE CONSEQUENCE WITH THE RULE BREAKING!
If your family has never outlined any rules, my advice is to start slowly. Pick a few key rules and be ready to share them and enforce them. It is never easy at first, and your kids will definitely test your resolve. But stay strong in the interest of building a healthy and happy family. Remember, baby steps down the road of improved parenting is always the key. Just tackle one or two major issues at a time. Once those improve your parenting confidence will grow and you will be able to move forward toward a more harmonious and fulfilling family life.